The Senate approved last Monday Senate Bill 1886, to expand the jurisdiction of first and second-level courts of the land with the goal of addressing delays in the disposition of cases due to overloading in certain courts. SB 1886 is a consolidated measure from SB 1359 filed by Sen. Richard Gordon and SB 1353 filed by Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid.
The bill seeks to expand the jurisdictions of the nation’s first and second-level courts, amending the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980
Senator Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said the bill would expand the jurisdictional thresholds of the first-level courts – the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. This will help unclog the dockets of the second-level courts — the Regional Trial Courts.
There were 21,269 pending civil cases in first-level courts and 106,484 cases pending in second-level courts as of December, 2018, according to the Office of the Court Administrator of the Supreme Court — an indication of the particularly heavy load of the second-level courts.
Senate bill 1886 also delegates to the Supreme Court the power to further increase or decrease the jurisdictional threshold of the first and second-level courts in line with the Supreme Court’s power of administration over all courts.
The bill addresses the problem of delays in court proceedings due to the heavy load of cases. It has been pointed out that because of too much work in the salas, even ministerial proceedings such as the posting of bail can suffer delays, as in the case of a respondent in the Navotas City court last week. Respondent Rolando Morato was arrested by police on a Thursday afternoon, charged as an accomplice in an illegal detention case, but the clerk of court, due to heavy workload, was able to issue an order of payment of bail for at 2 p.m. the next day and banks were already closing. The respondent was thus detained over the weekend.
There have been many other weekend arrests and detention due to red tape and the heavy load of many courts. The Gordon-Lapid bill should help solve this problem. It deserves the support of other officials as it proceeds to the next step in the House of Representatives so it will soon be enacted into law.